CLEVELAND -- Some people will look at Philip Humber's body of work over the 2011 regular season and rightfully call it a breakout effort or even the true Major League arrival for the right-hander.
These 25 starts made by Humber (9-9) also can be considered a learning experience, with another lesson delivered by the Indians (77-78) during Thursday's 11-2 shellacking of the White Sox (76-80).
"Especially now," said Humber, who has a 5.51 ERA following the All-Star break, after being the team's most consistent first-half starter. "It's frustrating. It's probably a good lesson for me learning to deal with adversity. I obviously want to finish the season strong, but at the same time, I can't try too hard."
"To be honest, I think we cannot complain about what he did this year," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. "This guy, most of the time he was out there, he gave us a chance to win. He had a year nobody thought he was going to have."
When Humber was good during Thursday's 2011 White Sox road finale at Progressive Field, the Indians had virtually no chance. He retired 14 in a row from the first inning through two outs in the fifth without much of a threat.
But during those moments when Humber wasn't quite as sharp ... let's just say Kosuke Fukudome and Jason Kipnis started the first with back-to-back homers, and Cleveland hitters didn't really miss again against Humber in game-deciding situations.
"I didn't feel I threw the ball as bad as the results," said Humber, who was charged with seven earned runs on eight hits over six-plus innings, striking out four and walking two. "But every time they needed a hit, they got one."
Juan Pierre's run-scoring single and an Asdrubal Cabrera throwing error helped the White Sox draw even in the fifth against Jeanmar Gomez (5-2), with Humber looking like he didn't need much more support. Jack Hannahan drew a two-out walk to end Humber's consecutive batters retired streak in the fifth, and that walk was followed by Ezequiel Carrera's ground-rule double and Fukudome's two-run single.
Cabrera launched a three-run homer off of reliever Addison Reed during a four-run seventh, giving Cabrera 25 long balls and the single-season franchise record for Indians shortstops. Two more runs off of Josh Kinney in the eighth completed the scoring.
"We swung the bat well today," Cleveland manager Manny Acta said. "Kosuke and Kipnis set the tone right off the bat. After that, we had a lot of good at-bats throughout the lineup, especially between Hannahan, Carrera and Fukudome. They created the whole thing.
"They were on base pretty much the whole night and created traffic for Cabrera to have the great night that he had -- three-run homer and then the two-run single. What a night."
Even with this setback and a split of the four-game series, giving the White Sox nine losses in their last 12 games, the South Siders still finished 43-38 away from home. That sort of record would have given hope to even the staunchest of cynics if presented to him or her before the 2011 season began.
Now, the White Sox are left to play out the string at home, with three games against the Royals and three against the Blue Jays. Free agents-to-be such as Mark Buehrle and Pierre could be playing their last games as part of the home team at U.S. Cellular Field, and the same could be true for Guillen.
"As a manager, you come every day to the ballpark and that could be your last day -- especially the way we played this year," said Guillen, who is under contract through 2012, but has expressed a desire to only return with an extension. "But no, I come with the same approach. If I come back, I come back. If not, I don't. I don't lose sleep with that. ... We think about it, yes, because I have family and I have to see what's going on.
"In the meanwhile, whatever happens it will be the best for me and whoever. Come back or not, that's what God got for me I guess. That's my destiny. I'm counting on being back, but it's a lot of things in the air. We have to get it done and see what happens."
One certainty is that Humber will throw the final game of the season on Wednesday afternoon. The 28-year-old would like nothing more than to ace this last exam.
"I'd like to be driving home with a smile on my face," Humber said. "But either way, it's been a great year, and I'm definitely thankful for what's happened this year and the opportunities I've had. I want to finish strong, but I'm doing all I can, working hard, and I have to roll with the punches.
"Earlier in the year, it was kind of a dream. I didn't even know how many starts I would get. I didn't know from one start to the next whether I would be in there or not. I was probably a lot more relaxed than I am right now."